The Line on Lines

Stephen Headrick

About the author

Stephen Headrick

Stephen Headrick

Stephen Headrick is better known to the bass fishing world as the Smallmouth Guru. He lives in Celina, Tenn., and is the owner of Punisher Lures.

I run a convenience and tackle store in Celina, Tenn., and one of the most common questions I get from folks who are trying to get geared up for some fishing is this: What line should I use?

I really wish there was a simple answer, but there's not. The truth is that as fishing gear gets better, it gets more complicated and more specialized. That's the bad news.

The good news is that the gear really is getting better, and once you learn the ropes you can dramatically improve your presentation by making the right decisions. Now let's see if we can demystify some of the tangled truths and myths about fishing line.

First of all, if you're a smallmouth angler and you've only got one rod and reel to fish with under a variety of conditions and on different waters, you should probably go with 8-pound-test fluorocarbon line. That would be my pick as the best all-around line choice if I could only use one line. It's super-clear so it works well in clear water; it has low stretch so it's great for contact baits like jigs and blade baits; and it's extremely sensitive.

Of course, it's not perfect, and fluorocarbon doesn't do everything well. In fact, it's exactly the wrong choice for some presentations, but I do think it's a good general purpose line for smallmouth fishing in the typically clear waters where we find them.

Here's what else you need to know about line types:

Monofilament has been around for decades and decades, and it's still the biggest seller for bass fishing. I use it whenever I'm fishing a topwater bait (it floats), most of the time when I'm fishing a lure with treble hooks (it has a little stretch and that can help with baits like crankbaits and jerkbaits) and when I'm night fishing (I like fluorescent mono because it lights up under a black light).

Braid has been around even longer than monofilament, but the new super braids are a relatively recent development. I use braid on my main line when I'm float and fly fishing and when I'm working really heavy cover like dense vegetation.

The downside to braid is that it's easy for the bass to see in clear water, so you'll want to tie a fluorocarbon leader to the end of your braid for most fishing.

Fluorocarbon is the newest of the line materials. Its biggest selling points are that its refractive qualities are close to that of water, so it's nearly invisible underwater, and it has very low stretch, so it's sensitive.

The biggest drawback of fluorocarbon is that it sinks. That makes it unsuitable for topwater baits.

Got it? That's line selection in a nutshell.

So, for most of my jig fishing, you'll find me using fluorocarbon. For crankbaits and jerkbaits (unless I need the extra depth that fluorocarbon offers because it sinks), I'll use mono. For the float and fly, I like braid with a fluorocarbon leader.

If you still have questions, it might be a good exercise for you to rig up three different rods with the three different line types in roughly the same diameter. Then you can go out and see how different lures perform on the lines.

Be sure to carry a pencil and a notepad. It would be a shame to do all that research and then forget what you learned!

Until next time, if you have any questions or comments, I'd love to hear from you. Please e-mail me atStephen@thesmallmouthguru.com.

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